Other Group

Democracy Funders Collaborative

Formation:

2015

Leaders:

Adam Ambrogi, Ilona Prucha

Type:

Unofficial Network

Democracy Funders Collaborative Census Subgroup, sometimes abbreviated to Democracy Funders Collaborative, is an unofficial group of left-of-center grantmakers that assembled in 2015 to strategize activism surrounding the 2020 Census count. Democracy Funders Collaborative is currently chaired by Adam Ambrogi of the Democracy Fund and Ilona Prucha of the Wellspring Philanthropic Fund. According to Inside Philanthropy, these organizations, alongside the Spitzer Trust, have created the Trusted Elections Fund, which Ambrogi claims will bring together “philanthropic partners and funders who want to ensure free and fair elections and pool resources to mitigate the disruption of COVID-19 in November.” [1]

New Venture Fund

Democracy Funders Collaborative created the 2020 Census Project which is housed at the New Venture Fund. [2]

The New Venture Fund (NVF) is a funding and fiscal sponsorship non-profit that makes grants to left-of-center advocacy and organizing projects and provides incubation serves for other left-of-center organizations. Its focus includes social and environmental change and issuing grants for projects including the arts, education, global health, and conservation. [3]

Critics have argued that the New Venture Fund is a “dark money” organization that is used to funnel money from left-of-center groups toward political advocacy issues including attacking Republicans and pushing for environmentalist restrictions. [4]

2020 Census Project

The 2020 Census Project created by Democracy Funders Collaborative Census Subgroup is funded by multiple large left-of-center foundations and grantmakers.

The New Venture Fund, which is housing the 2020 Census Project, received $775,000 in 2017 from the Heising-Simons Foundation a California-based private family foundation headed by Mark Heising and Liz Simons that principally awards grants in the areas of climate and environmentalist energy, education, scientific research, and human rights. [5]

It also received $25,000 in 2018 and $250,000 in 2019 from the Rockefeller Brothers Fund which labeled the grants as “elections and voting rights.” [6] Pierre Omidyar’s Democracy Fund, which primarily contributes money to center-left and left-wing media organizations, groups seeking to infringe on campaign speech rights, and left-of-center voter registration organizations contributed $750,000 to the 2020 Census Project in 2018, and another $500,000 in 2019. [7]

According to the Democracy Funders Collaborative’s “Census 2020 Action Plan,” the goals to ensure that “Adequate Policies and Resources” are in place for the 2020 Census include advocating for “policy improvements” for the decennial census and the American Community Survey. This means the Census needs “adequate federal funding and sound strategic decision-making.” [8]

The Democracy Funders Collaborative also notes “funder outreach and increased support” which includes “leveraging the profile of foundations” in the group to highlight the importance of the census. The group also adds that “supporting the Funders Census Initiative” is important to bring other “funders to the table.” The group’s final goal is to support “outreach and public education” especially amongst “undercounted populations.” [9]

The Democracy Funders Collaborative worked with the Funders Census Initiative to host a webinar on the 2020 Census. The two groups noted during the webinar to educate the public and increase “Get-Out-The-Count” efforts, it was important to among other things “develop culturally resonant messages, create a rapid response network, increase digital organizing capacity, and provide technical assistance for state and local funders.” [10]

Affiliated Organizations

Member organizations of Democracy Funders Collaborative include many large left-of-center grantmakers.

According to Inside Philanthropy, funders such as Annie E. Casey Foundation, Ford Foundation, Carnegie Corporation of New York, JPB Foundation, Open Society Foundations, Kresge Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, Bauman Foundation, Joyce Foundation, Heising-Simons, Unbound Philanthropy, Wallace A. Coulter Foundation, James Irvine Foundation, California Endowment, and the Hewlett Foundation are members. [11]

A letter written by the 2020 Census Project and sent to Congress in December 2019, was signed by multiple organizations. The letter, which requested that Congress assure the Census Bureau it will get a full year’s funding as soon as possible, was signed by multiple left-of-center organizations including; Common Cause, Economic Policy Institute, National Action Network, Planned Parenthood Federation of America, State Voices, and Voices for Progress. [12]

References

  1. Philip Rojc, “Virus-Proofing the Vote: Democracy Funders Respond to COVID-19,” April 1, 2020, https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2020/4/1/virus-proofing-the-vote-democracy-funders-respond-to-covid-19. ^
  2. “New Venture Fund,” RSS, accessed June 29, 2020, https://www.macfound.org/grantees/596/. ^
  3. “About New Venture Fund,” New Venture Fund, accessed June 29, 2020, https://www.newventurefund.org/about-nvf/. ^
  4. Lachlan-Markay, “Over 100 Left-Wing Groups Sourced to DC Dark Money Outfit,” Washington Free Beacon (Washington Free Beacon, October 22, 2015), https://freebeacon.com/issues/over-100-left-wing-groups-sourced-to-d-c-dark-money-outfit/. ^
  5. “2020 Census Project,” Heising-Simons Foundation, April 23, 2019, https://www.hsfoundation.org/grant-highlight/2020-census-project/. ^
  6. “New Venture Fund,” Rockefeller Brothers Fund, May 4, 2020, https://www.rbf.org/grantees/new-venture-fund. ^
  7. “Grants Database,” Democracy Fund, June 15, 2020, https://democracyfund.org/for-partners/grants-database/. ^
  8. “Census 2020 Action Plan,” Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation, accessed June 29, 2020, https://funderscommittee.org/resource/democracy-funders-collaborative-releases-census-2020-action-plan-and-policy-framework/. ^
  9. “Census 2020 Action Plan,” Funders’ Committee for Civic Participation, accessed June 29, 2020, https://funderscommittee.org/resource/democracy-funders-collaborative-releases-census-2020-action-plan-and-policy-framework/. ^
  10. Advancing Justice | AAJC, “How Funders Are Getting Involved in the 2020 Census,” Medium (Advancing Justice | AAJC, May 30, 2019), https://medium.com/advancing-justice-aajc/how-funders-are-getting-involved-in-the-2020-census-8713ca2430de. ^
  11. Philip Rojc, “COVID and the Count: Funders Confront New Challenges to the 2020 Census,” Inside Philanthropy (Inside Philanthropy, April 9, 2020), https://www.insidephilanthropy.com/home/2020/4/9/covid-and-the-count-funders-confront-new-challenges-to-the-2020-census. ^
  12. “The 2020 Census Needs Full-Year FY20 Funding Now,” CensusProject, accessed June 29, 2020, https://censusproject.files.wordpress.com/2019/12/cp-fy-2020-final-bill-stakeholder-letter-12-6-19-with-sign-onsfinal.pdf. ^
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